SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY -- reviewed as a duet!
Despite its title, we’re reviewing “Solo” as a duet.
Film fans Quinn Deitrick and Joe Smith -- respectively student and teacher at Loyalsock High School -- share a passion for movies and writing; now they’ll also share their thoughts on the latest “Star Wars” spin-off.
JOE: I don’t know about you, Quinn, but “entertaining” is my operative word for this film. Handsome, exciting and funny, with twisty plotting and a strong human element. I think we can credit director Ron Howard for a lot of this; the man seems able to do almost anything.
QUINN: I couldn’t agree with you more, Mr. Smith. Howard made this film into one exciting ride. I find it hard to believe that the movie has been getting some negative reception, but that is all undeserved. The younger version of Harrison Ford’s slick, blaster-wielding pilot that we all know and love is played by Alden Ehrenreich. Ehrenreich has mostly had relatively smaller roles; this did not hinder him from standing out as Han Solo. I thought Ehrenreich was fantastic.
JOE: He was excellent. He has said he didn’t want to mimic Ford, and indeed he makes the role his own, though one can see the future Solo twinkling behind some of his lines and expressions. (And it’s a matter of public record that Ford loved this new film.) Also terrific: Woody Harrelson; Donald Glover as Han’s old friend Lando (actually a new friend here); and Phoebe Waller-Bridge as Lando’s sidekick, L3 -- who articulates a theme of slavery and exploitation that’s surprising because she and those she advocates for are cyborgs!
QUINN: Lando and L3 were indeed great character additions to the film. Glover played Lando with such charm while Waller-Bridge provided the humor. What really made me appreciate Glover’s character was how well he fit into the story. Seeing how Solo and Lando first met and got to know each other put a smile on my face; this goes for Chewbacca’s first appearance as well. The film does not only entertain based on fan service alone. I was thoroughly pleased by the film’s story.
JOE: Yes, “Solo” is fun for fans and non-fans alike. I loved it even though most of the Star Wars in-jokes went right by me. One friend I went with is a devotee, and he kept “oho”-ing at the references. Lawrence Kasdan was the perfect choice to write this script; he’s got the franchise creds (“Empire Strikes Back,” “Force Awakens”), but has also written other stuff with wide appeal (“The Big Chill,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark”). On a different note, I understand this film had an astronomical budget (forgive the pun) -- nearly $250 million. What did you think of the visual effects?
QUINN: Pun forgiven. It has become pretty staple now that every Star Wars movie has gorgeous visuals, with “Solo” being no exception. This movie has several imaginative environments, from the dreary city that Han Solo grew up in to the colorful depths of space. The movie really flexes its visual potential in the pulsating chase sequences. There is one set piece in particular that undoubtedly stood out above the rest. I think you know which one I’m talking about.
JOE: You’re on the right track (another gag; sorry!). I was a sucker for that sequence because I love trains -- even if they don’t run on wheels. In its clarity, audacity and nail-biting action, this futuristic hijacking on a twisty mountain rail-line is reminiscent of Spielberg; and when it comes to action, there isn’t much higher praise than that. I wonder why the film seems to be underperforming at the box office?
QUINN: It doesn’t look like the Star Wars franchise will slow down soon, as there are countless spin-off movies to make. However, the abundance of Star Wars films has recently begun to wear down on audiences, which is evident in “Solo’s” underwhelming performance on opening weekend. This is still surprising, since all of the newer releases have been top-quality. Maybe people are losing interest in “the galaxy far, far away.”
“Solo: A Star Wars Story,”
directed by Ron Howard
Run time: 135 min.
* * * (out of four)
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action/violence